Reflections on a New Year: Lessons Learned

Reflections on a New Year: Thoughts and Lessons Learned // 2019 was an up and down year for me. Looking back, there's a lot of lessons I've learned about myself. And this will help moving forward.

Warning: Kinda personal post ahead.  Because life isn’t all LEGOs and Cardboard all the time.

2019 was an up and down year for me.  There were plenty of wonderful things going on – a large financial donation to our makerspace at work that allowed me to start up new programs, two keynote speaking opportunities at NHSLMA and OELMA, finally building up a financial safety new of six months worth of expenses (after paying off all my non-mortgage debt in 2018).  But 2019 has also been hard. I’ve had a lot of personal and family issues going on. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and finding balance in my life. Things aren’t quite to the point of exhaustion or burnout, but I’ve had to cut back on things and re-evaluate and try to learn how to find balance in all things.

Reflections on 2019:

There is a behind the scenes

It’s so easy to get caught up in posting the perfect makerspace project, the tidy shelf of brand-new books, the gorgeous vacation photo.  What we often don’t see is the project that bombed, the days when the library is closed for testing or events, the tired eyes after another night of not enough sleep because we love our work but we also love our family and our life outside of work and sometimes it’s difficult to balance it all. (As a side note, I actually post on Instagram a lot more often than I blog, so if you want more of a day-to-day look at what’s going on in my life, you can follow my personal Instagram and my library Instagram.)

We need to be more kind to ourselves

I could easily beat myself up over the fact that I didn’t post once during the last three months of 2019.  Or the fact that I can’t remember the last time I joined a Twitter chat. I could get upset with how my anxiety affected several of my conference experiences this year, leaving me feeling overwhelmed.  Or I can let it go and move on. Life happens. We are not machines. It’s okay to recognize that sometimes, you have to reprioritize. That sometimes, you need to focus on your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Balance is so important

I am the type of person that tends to take things a bit towards the extreme.  When I get interested in a subject (physical health, paleo eating, minimalism, etc) I read ALL THE THINGS.  I listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and get a bit obsessive. And I will sometimes go a bit far, to the annoyance of those around me.  But I’m trying to learn how to find balance again. Can I be a minimalist and also buy a new bookshelf because books bring me joy and it’s okay to have more than just two shelves worth?  Of course. Can I occasionally eat chocolate drizzled popcorn (so good!) and still consider myself a generally healthy person? Yes. I know that probably feels obvious to many of you, but sometimes I need to remind myself.  Out of all of my reflections on this year, this is the one that I keep learning and relearning over and over again.

(I re-read Essentialism on the flight to AASL this year and once again, it resonated so strongly with me on the issue of finding balance and only saying yes to the truly important.  If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it.  And oh hey, wasn’t I saying these same types of things in 2017?  Sometimes lesson take awhile to stick.)

Routine and habits are important

When I had set a habit/routine of setting a timer and writing for five minutes every morning, I would end up with more blog posts than I knew what to do with.  Gradually, I let that routine slip. Sometimes, I felt like I needed more sleep. Other days, I got caught up checking e-mail (and let’s be honest, scrolling through Facebook) and lost track of time.  I find that I do best with a good, solid routine. 2020 seems like a good time to try to bring this back into focus.

Automating decisions saves brain space

Not exactly the most reflective part of this post, but I’ve found that when I can automate decisions that used to be stress points so I don’t have to worry about them anymore, it frees up brain space and eases my anxiety.  I realize that there may be some consequences (i.e. environmental trade-off from having things shipped), but for now, I’m okay with it. I don’t have to worry about remembering when to buy toilet paper and paper towels because Amazon Subscribe and Save delivers it on a regular schedule.  My shampoo and conditioner bars ship from Package Free in Brooklyn every few months. I setup automatic deductions into my savings and retirement accounts so that I’m not tempted to use the money on something else instead of saving it. I’m working through the process of creating a capsule wardrobe so I have fewer decisions to make when getting dressed.  It might not seem like much on the surface, but those little pre-made decisions make a big difference as you stack them up.

Acknowledge and recognize mental health

I’ve struggled with anxiety and insecurity for a long time.  Usually it’s not that bad, but lately it’s been much worse. To the point where I’m finally doing the work of finding a therapist.  I think it’s important to acknowledge this and not hide it away.  A lot of my anxiety and insecurity is in my head and doesn’t reflect what reality is.  I often have that nagging fear in the back of my mind – Do people not like me? Did I do something to offend them? What if I say/do the wrong thing? I think recognizing and acknowledging these feelings is the first step towards working through them.

Life is a work in progress, for sure.  I think looking back and taking note of reflections on life are vital steps for moving forward.  My hope for 2020 is to be a year of finding balance, creating value for others 

2 thoughts on “Reflections on a New Year: Lessons Learned”

  1. Finding a balance is SO hard with the ups and downs of life. I do better with structure as well and automatizing things is definitely a helpful choice. I heard recently that ‘discipline is your friend’ because it helps you to focus on your goals instead of the short term ‘I’m tired’. LOL So that’s what I’m working on this year. Best wishes to you on your journey to balance this year. Thanks for all you do.

    • Thanks Lisa! That sounds like a good thing to work on – I catch myself saying “I’m tired” so often, but I usually end up feeling better if I push through it and make progress towards my goals.

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